apparition

If you see something you think might be a ghost, you can call it an apparition to hedge your bets. Apparition doesn't commit you in the same way the word ghost does—and saying that you've seen one won't cause you to be committed.

Deriving from the Latin apparere "appear," apparition was first used in 1520 in a religious context, referring to the moment when the three wise men appear before the infant Jesus in the Bible. Later, apparition came to include the appearance of ghosts, or ghostly figures. It can also mean a memory so vivid it's like seeing a ghost.

Definitions of apparition
  1. noun
    a ghostly appearing figure
    “we were unprepared for the apparition that confronted us”
    synonyms: fantasm, phantasm, phantasma, phantom, specter, spectre
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    types:
    Flying Dutchman
    the captain of a phantom ship (the Flying Dutchman) who was condemned to sail against the wind until Judgment Day
    type of:
    disembodied spirit, spirit
    any incorporeal supernatural being that can become visible (or audible) to human beings
  2. noun
    the appearance of a ghostlike figure
    “I was recalled to the present by the apparition of a frightening specter”
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    type of:
    appearance
    the event of coming into sight
  3. noun
    something existing in perception only
    “a ghostly apparition at midnight”
    synonyms: fantasm, phantasm, phantasma, phantom, shadow
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    types:
    UFO, flying saucer, unidentified flying object
    an (apparently) flying object whose nature is unknown; especially those considered to have extraterrestrial origins
    Flying Dutchman
    a phantom ship that is said to appear in storms near the Cape of Good Hope
    ghost, shade, specter, spectre, spook, wraith
    a mental representation of some haunting experience
    type of:
    illusion, semblance
    an erroneous mental representation
  4. noun
    an act of appearing or becoming visible unexpectedly
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    type of:
    appearance
    the act of appearing in public view
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